Review – Cats

Feb 14 2013 | By More

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CATS Andrew Lloyd Webber Edinburgh PlayhouseEdinburgh Playhouse

Guest review by Martin Gray

7.30pm. Not a sound from the audience as the curtain rises on the theatrical juggernaut that is Cats. It’s more than 30 years since Andrew Lloyd Webber put music to TS Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, and while there’s a definite Eighties vibe to the show, Cats hasn’t atrophied, it’s achieved classic status, enchanting audiences old and new and this touring production feels as fresh as a playful kitten.

I’ve rarely seen a house with such a wide, evenly distributed span of ages, from wise old Toms to young cats, all ready for the Jellicle clan to share their stories in music and dance.

The impressive junkyard set that greets us is soon filled with pusses of all shapes and hues, from grey glamour cat Grizabella to walking carpet Old Deuteronomy, slinky Mistoffelees and the rest of the feline firmament. Gradually they reveal their world to the watching humans, sharing their secret names and natures via vignettes centred on the music of Lloyd Webber and words of Eliot.

The lusty Macavity never fails to please, while trains tribute Skimbleshanks is a thousand megawatt delight. While some of the songs are a tad twee, such as Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer, they’re never less than fun and, in the case of Mr Mistoffelees, annoyingly catchy. The general jollity means the sadder numbers can catch you by surprise, such as Gus: The Theatre Cat, telling the tale of a palsied old thespian missing his not-really-glorious glory days.


Buy the DVD:

Melancholy as it is, Memory catches no one by surprise. You go in humming it, look forward to its arrival and hope it doesn’t disappoint. It doesn’t – Joanna Ampil channels Cats’ best-known number, producing a perfectly measured rendition that doesn’t so much pluck, as tear out the heartstrings. She’s matched by a uniformly excellent ensemble cast, such as Joel Morris as the magical Mistoffelees, bouncing around the stage like a feline Nureyev and Paul F Monaghan as sad old Gus and his younger role, the pirate Growltiger.

The only moment when the show misses a beat is in The Naming of Cats, which is chanted rather than sung; the cast are out of synch, making the words hard to discern. But that’s just a few minutes in a production that’s class from beginning to end.

It may not make a cat person out of a dog lover, but it could make your night.

Run ends Sat 2 March
Edinburgh Playhouse, Mon – Sat, 7.30pm (also 2.30pm, Thurs, Sat)

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